Advice tips and various lists dominate fitness publications these days in an attempt to prepare athletes for their perfect race day. While most of these suggestions will focus on training regiments or the latest technology, none will apply to all athletes and these same suggestions will require either a different type of training or money to improve. Listed below are five tips that cost nothing and require zero sweat equity, yet are sure to enhance your race day no matter the level of competition.
Number 5: Thank the volunteers
Volunteers likely won’t sweat as much as you (well, some might), but these people are likely at the race location before and after your event. Volunteers put in countless pre-race hours to ensure the course is safe and secure of the things racers take for granted. All those cones, roadway closures, and water stations do not just pop up on race day automatically.
Number 4: Bring a friend, find a friend, bribe a family member
Many people, myself included, subscribe to the code of running your own race on race day. This eliminates us screwing up a race for our training partner as anything can happen on race day. While there are plenty of race variables outside our control, races are always more satisfying complaining about the series of late hills or long bathroom and check-in lines with someone you like, or can at least tolerate. While athletes might not look like it in the middle of the race, seeing a familiar face is a motivating factor. Regardless if you are on your way to a new PR, the ride home is always easier when stories of the rainy weather, the annoying starter, and did you see “that guy” wearing only a thong are shared with others. Introducing a person to their first race is truly special, especially when they come back.
Number 3: Watch others finish
Assuming you are not bringing up the rear, witnessing the finish of any race is encouraged and perhaps should be required. Finish first? Watch the finish! Heck, even the unbeatable Chrissie Wellington watches others finish after she has put in her 140.6 mile day in Ironman competitions. Had a bad day? Watch the finish and realize that your life is actually just fine as you watch others of all capabilities break the tape. Are you a spectator? Watch the elite come through to convince your family and friends that while you love watching them race, they will be heading back to their day jobs on Monday because those first finishers are in a completely different league. (Hint: tell them on the drive home)
Number 2: Modesty at the start pays big dividends later
You have likely witnessed this individual. The one bragging about their expected mile split or finishing time and not realizing that everyone around him or her is faster, yet saying nothing. The same one casually mocking an individual’s bike or racing gear before the gun even sounds. While there is nothing wrong with looking good, no one feels sorry for the person with too much braggadocio at the start when they get a flat bike tire or come up with stomach cramps in the run. Plus you are easy prey for a topic of discussion in numerous post race conversations; the majority of which will be unflattering.
Number 1: Finish strong…and please do not look at your watch!
I get it. As the finish line approaches, you probably look and feel like death. Suck it up and throw those arms up in the air or at least crack a smile. If you want proof, take a look at the live Ironman finisher video as 14+ hours athletes approach the finish line. The smart ones, even though they might have walked or waddled, among other seemingly unpleasant things occurring throughout the day, hit the last hundred yards like a champion winning a gold medal. Glance at your watch 10 seconds before the line or 10 seconds after the line, not at the line. Trust me, the math is not that hard and the unique moment will last that much longer.
Brian Resutek is a contributing writer to Yahoo! and is an avid runner and triathlete having qualified for the Boston and New York marathons as well as the ITU World Triathlon Championships. Follow him on Twitter @bres01